September 10, 2015

The Battle of the Almanacs: What Will Our Winter Bring?

 Many folks peruse the pages of  the The Old Farmer's Almanac or its competitor The Farmer's Almanac while waiting to check out of their local supermarket, pharmacy, or convenience store.  Both claim great prowess making long-term weather predictions using their secret algorithms based on sunspots, climatology, lunar cycles and god-knows what.

Everyone wants to know what will happen this winter, so let's check out the latest almanac forecasts and compare them to our best scientific approaches.
Let's start with the new kid on the block (1818), the venerable Farmer's Almanac.

I studied their online information carefully and hung around the checkout stand a bit to determine their prediction.   Bottom line: wet and mild over the Northwest.  And cold and snowy in the east. Dry and mild in the southwest.  Basically, there are making a persistence prediction, that the coming winter will be similar to last year.  

And then there is the relatively ancient Old Farmer's Almanac (established 1792).  I guess the additional 26 years lets you use the "old" modifier.  Its prediction?  Cooler and rainier than normal, with ABOVE-NORMAL SNOWFALL over the Northwest. Good for glaciers.  Pretty much the opposite of the predictions of the Farmer's Almanac.

Two respected guides using time-proven secret forecasting schemes getting the opposite results.  Disturbing.

So what is the latest from new-fangled, scientific approaches?   As I have noted in several blogs, we have a very strong El Nino developing.  This is confirmed by the latest sea surface temperatures and atmospheric circulation statistics.  As shown by the latest sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (difference from normal), the El Nino pattern of warm tropical SSTs is in place and importantly for us, the BLOB IS DYING.
El Ninos bring less snow than normal to the Northwest (mountains down about 20%) and more precipitation to California.  Warmer than normal over our region. What about the forecasts of the North American ensemble of seasonal forecasts (NMME)--a very powerful tool combining a large number of seasonal forecasting models?

Here is the temperature anomaly from normal (C) for November through January from NMME.   Warmer than normal over our region.
 Precipitation?  A bit drier than normal over us and wetter than normal over California.
Both of these are classic El Nino patterns or what we call teleconnections in the weather biz.

So neither Almanac was consistent with our best technology/science, which predict conditions to be a bit drier than normal and warmer than normal.   Less snow than normal, but certainly more snow than last year.

So how can we decide which of these forecasts are right?   There are other approaches....


  1. There is always; the size of you pine cones, lighting in winter, Punxsutawney Phil, and fog in August. Of course anyone that has spent anytime in San Francisco in August knows that SF would need to be the snowiest place on earth if that were true. Hint, the last time SF got an inch or more of snow Ford was in office.

  2. And a hemlock looper out break will proceed a shift toward neutral ENSO

  3. How about how thick my cat's coat gets in the fall?

  4. How about the number and size of the spiders crawling in from the outdoors?

  5. considering the Sun drives everything on this planet, there's obviously something to sunspots etc...

  6. With climate change you can basically predict warm and dry all the time and it's a safe bet.

  7. Cliff - I'm not sure how you can justify your statement: "less snow than normal, but certainly more snow than last year." CERTAINLY - are you serious? Don't you know what business you're in?!

    Secondly, you seem to be comparing the upcoming winter's prediction with what last winter actually turned out to be. I think the proper comparison is between the NMME forecast from last year and the NMME forecast for this year. When you compare last year's NMME forecast with this year's NMME forecast, I think you see a different picture. Precipitation appears to be down over the region by a similar amount for this year (maybe even drier), but the temperature is predicted to be much warmer this winter than last winter.

    I don't think that jibes with your "certainly more snow" declaration...

  8. I follow Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell Analytics. He predicts a very warm, very DRY winter here: 25% of normal precipitation. Let's see who's right.

  9. Something else: It's looking like this super El Nino is getting less super every week.

  10. Why not compare 2015 almanac predictions to actual weather? Or a series of the past 20 years where we know the outcome rather than speculating in future weather?

  11. Hey Cliff,
    The Farmer Almanac called for a reference check. How was your job interview? I told them you had a set of chicken bones proven time and again for long range predictions!Shake rattle and roll!

  12. Hi Cliff,
    I noticed that it'll be wetter than normal to both North and South of us. Does that mean most of the storm tracks will also be North and South? Basically a low chance of big storms this year?

    Bill Clugston

  13. Don't forget the Squirrels!

    I saw one hauling materials to a nesting site just the other day.

    Gonna be a doozy!

  14. I seem to remember that the last big El NiƱo brought a lot of snow to us.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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